Forgotten cereals make a comeback within the guide of the “queen of freekeh”


Hagai Ben Yehuda opens the blue-tiled wood-fired oven and slides a wood shovel beneath the spinning loaves, a closing step in his sourdough baking course of.

On the opposite facet of the room, an enormous mixer stirs oats into one other batch of its rye sourdough, whereas a sieve frequently spins floor flour from recent wheat kernels, at a charge of six kilograms per hour.

A fifth-generation baker, Ben Yehuda is the great-great-grandson of Moshe Rozental, a Polish immigrant who landed in pre-state Palestine in 1870, promoting his handmade rye breads in Jaffa earlier than opening a bakery in Petah Tivka. As we speak, his father is vice chairman of Angel Bakeries, one of many largest bread corporations within the nation.


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Flour, yeast, and the gluttonous mass they kind are in Ben Yehuda’s blood, however he factors out that even giant industrial bakeries like Angel are slowly being influenced by means of entire grains and sourdough, which doesn’t require yeast to rise.

Removed from these behemoths of the bakery, Ben Yehuda works at his craft from his grandmother’s outdated porch in Kibbutz Einat, close to Petah Tikva.

Utilizing imported flours in addition to his personal, floor from historical grains he grows in Moshav Sarona, northern Israel, Ben Yehuda every day folds and shapes 250 kilograms of dough into 250 to 300 loaves of bread. sourdough with a darkish crust and a shiny crumb.

From his bakery, known as Hagai and the Bread, the loaves are routed to a few of Tel Aviv’s greatest eating places and meals shops.

Artisan baker Hagay Ben Yehuda at his bakery in Kibbutz Einat, February 23, 2022. (Jessica Steinberg/Occasions of Israel)

Historical grain varieties style higher, Ben Yehuda says, and whereas they comprise gluten, it is usually in lower than marketed wheats, a profit for individuals who endure from bloating and digestive points.

“The thought is to not use only one kind of grain, however to create a mixture of imported flour and historical grains,” stated Ruth Nieman, a British-born meals author who guided us in Ben Yehuda’s bakery.

Ruth Nieman consulted artisan bakers like Ben Yehuda for her analysis for her new guide, Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Historical Grains (Prospect Books), on what she calls the “farm to plate” technique of discovering and cultivating wild wheats and historical grains, and understanding what they carry to fashionable meals.

Historical wild wheat varieties, akin to emmer, believed to be the flour utilized in biblical matzah, had been found within the Nineteen Forties on the foot of Mount Hermon. Jaljuli, one other historical wheat selection, was found later close to Masada. Nonetheless, these varieties wouldn’t have giant yields and Israeli bakers usually desire imported wheat to them.

Nonetheless, in recent times, bakers like Ben Yehuda and others have steadily turned to lesser-known grains like einkorn, or spelled, which is simply grown in chilly climates like Ukraine, and is then imported after which floor in Israel, or freekeh, an area cereal additionally known as inexperienced wheat which is roasted and which is usually in comparison with bulgur.

Cookbook creator Ruth Nieman holds a grain of recent wheat exterior the Hagai Ben Yehuda artisan bakery, the place she carried out a few of her analysis for her new guide, ‘Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Historical Grains’ on February 23 2022, (Credit score: Jessica Steinberg/Occasions of Israel)

Nieman spent a 12 months and a half researching her cookbook, spending as a lot time as doable in Israel – she splits her time between London and northern Israel – the place she first landed in Israel. age of 18 whereas spending a 12 months at Kibbutz Amiad.

A former nurse turned caterer, then a meals author, Nieman printed her first cookbook, The Galilean Kitchenconcerning the conventional cuisines of the Jewish and Arab matriarchs of northern Israel.

Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Historical Grains is dedicated to cereals traditionally used all through the Center East. In Israel, the analysis was carried out with the assistance of archaeologists, botanists, meals historians, the Dagon Grain Museum and artisan bakers akin to Ben Yehuda.

This guide is sprinkled with unique recipes relationship again centuries (barley matzah, anybody?) in addition to up to date recipes, akin to freekeh bread from chef Erez Komorovsky, thought-about the daddy of the bread craze artisanal in Israel, and the borekas spelled flour with spinach and cheese from Pitputim, a northern bakery that makes use of solely spelled flour.

Cowl of Ruth Nieman’s newest cookbook, ‘Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Historical Grains’ (courtesy Prospect Books)

There’s a mixture of extra well-known recipes from Mediterranean delicacies, akin to Khorasan flatbreads with za’atar and freekeh salad with pistachios and labaneh (a strained yogurt). However the guide additionally incorporates recipes extra frequent in England, Nieman’s residence nation, akin to Emmer and Walnuts, or Spelled Scones with Wild Garlic and Cheddar. She recommends getting ready these with wild garlic picked from “the woods and gardens”.

“I needed folks to search out out about these grains, work with them, and use them as a part of their food regimen,” Nieman stated.

With the guide giving satisfaction of place to sourdough, Nieman says he is completed his share of sourdough baking in the course of the pandemic and says he hardly touches white bread anymore.

However the largest change to his personal food regimen is using many grains in his meals, and particularly freekeh, the title grain which Nieman says was within the first recipe ever written down within the thirteenth century. She usually makes use of it instead of different cereals, whether or not in soups or salads.

“My buddies name me the queen of freekeh,” says Ms. Nieman.

Freekeh with roasted cauliflower and tahini (serves 4-6)

1 cup freekeh, rinsed and drained

2.5 cups of water

2 small cauliflowers, lower into florets

additional virgin olive oil

3-4 heaped tablespoons of za’atar

a squeeze of lemon juice

salt and pepper

100 grams of pine nuts, toasted

1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

For the tahini

4 tablespoons of tahini

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon of salt

frozen water

Preparation :

Preheat the oven to 190°C / 375°F / Gasoline Mark 5.

Freekeh with roasted cauliflower and tahini, from Ruth Nieman’s ‘Freekeh, Wild Wheat & Historical Grains’ cookbook. (Courtesy Ruth Nieman)

Place the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling salted water and boil over medium warmth for five minutes till al dente. Drain and place in a roasting pan. Season with salt, generously drizzle with olive oil and loads of za’atar, then bake for 30 to 40 minutes, till the bouquets are tender and barely burnt on the sides. Take out of the oven and put aside.

Soak the freekeh in chilly water for 10 minutes, then rinse and drain earlier than putting it in a saucepan. Cowl with water and produce to a boil, decrease the warmth and simmer for 15-20 minutes till the freekeh is smooth however barely crisp and the water has been absorbed by the grains. Flip off the warmth and permit to steam for 10 minutes with an hermetic lid.

Place every part in a bowl, season with salt and pepper and drizzle with slightly additional olive oil, a drizzle of lemon juice, finely chopped parsley and many of the toasted pine nuts, leaving a handful for the filling.

For the tahini:

Place tahini in a bowl, add lemon juice and salt and blend with a whisk. Add the chilly water in a trickle, whisking repeatedly till you get a clean liquid the consistency of double cream. To guide.

As soon as the cauliflower florets are grilled, add to the freekeh with all that scrumptious za’atar flavored oil from the pan. Pour within the tahini and garnish with the remaining pine nuts and slightly additional flat-leaf parsley. Serve at room temperature.

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